MPC’s James Tillett grades long-awaited feature film Monsters and Men
Reinaldo Marcus Green’s feature directorial debut Monsters and Men had a successful run at Sundance Film Festival this year. Now, it has finally been released to the public.
Starring John David Washington, Anthony Ramos and Kelvin Harrison Jr., the film’s plot is based on a controversial shooting by a police officer in Brooklyn, told through the different views of key witnesses. Green, who has previously directed short films including Stone Cars and Stop, teamed up with MPC’s colorist James Tillett and DP Patrick Scola, who has worked on a string of high profile music videos for the likes of The Weeknd and Rag‘n’Bone Man, as well as commercial work for global brands including Mercedes, Audi and LLoyds Bank.
For a film that explores powerful issues such as racism and police brutality, Reinaldo explained how the grade was crucial in bringing these themes to life: “We were looking to enhance our naturalistic color scheme – something that could help elevate our world – to create a genre that could feel familiar. James’ grade was able to bring out the emotion and feeling that otherwise would go unnoticed, and to encourage the viewer to focus their eye on what we wanted them to see.”
James echoed Reinaldo’s sentiment, adding: “My intention with the grade was to use the overall color balance to subtly influence the mood of each sequence. In some of the scenes, it was purely about complementing the imagery, and in others, I wanted to really bring out the actors’ faces and eyes to heighten the emotions in that scene,” adding, “I wanted to enhance Rei and Pat’s vision in a transparent and tasteful way.”
Reinaldo added: “James is a color god – he’s very talented and easy to work with. He’s amongst the best out there. He and Pat painted a beautiful picture together. They created a mood that could only be done when you have a collaborative spirit and a great eye – a good heart also helped.”
James had already established a working relationship with Patrick before embarking on this film together, and they collaborated early on in the process: “I spoke with Pat about the film’s direction and he shared a few references with me in order to help me get started, so I had a good idea of what he was looking for stylistically early on. Working this way meant that once the client-attended sessions started, I already had the film looking pretty good and was thoroughly familiar with all the scenes.”
He expanded further: “The main decision Pat and I had to make was on the contrast levels and how we were going to treat the shadows. We spent a fair amount of time gradually tweaking and adjusting the black level and contrast until we had the right approach for the whole film.”
James, who has worked on features in the past, commented on the process of working on a full-length film: “I find it helps to do an initial first pass across the film to get it nicely balanced and to familiarize myself with all the footage. This highlights the sections of the film that will take more time to perfect.” He has also graded many music videos and commercials for brands including BMW, Mercedes, Nike, and L’Oreal.